Beard of Bees

Thoughts on tabletop and video games

The quest to be ordinary: why the world of Black Desert Online feels alive

From the first moment I realised that it was possible to play a massively multiplayer game online—that I could create a little computer person and interact in a virtual world with hundreds of other little computer people—I’ve only really wanted one thing: to be ordinary.

The thing is, I’ve never really understood the power-trip, hero-fantasy aspect of roleplaying games; especially MMOs. The desire to be a legendary figure of power and renown. It’s always struck me as a real immersion-killer to know that everybody I pass in the street has done the same great deeds as me and, more than this, it counters the very sense of power and achievement the game was presumably designed to provide in the first place. Because if everyone is the saviour of the realm, if everyone is an ultimate, special warrior… then nobody is.

We were the ones who defeated the legendary dragon Onyxia... just like millions of others. Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/glennbatuyong/.

We were the ones who defeated the legendary dragon Onyxia… just like millions of others. Image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/glennbatuyong/.

Instead, I’ve always looked for experiences where I can feel part of a bigger world, where my character is just one face in a crowd. I want a fantasy setting that feels real—and this means that it needs shops, tradespeople and others just going about their business, and so on. Where most people are just, you know, making a living. Continue reading

The Sweet Spot (or: Why Matthias Cramer’s ‘Lancaster’ Might Be the Most Well-Rounded Game Ever Made)

I enjoy complicated games, but not if they’re so complicated that they detract from the business of having fun. I enjoy games with theme, but not if the theme comes at the expense of solid mechanics. I enjoy games that will keep us entertained for an evening, but I can’t ever set aside four or five hours in one sitting.

For any metric that you want to judge a game against, there is a spectrum. At each end of that spectrum you’ll find games that fail: they are too simple or too complicated; too short or too long; too adversarial or too light on interaction. But every now and then, a game will come along that hits a sweet spot: it occupies the perfect position on a particular spectrum for you.

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